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Volunteer aims to initiate Red Cross facility
May 11, 2006 12:00 am
May 3, 2006 – When the next natural disaster strikes – whether in Wilson County, elsewhere in Middle Tennessee, or on the other side of the country – Liz Reese will have just one question: where will Wilson Countians turn to give or receive help?
It is a question Reese starting asking the day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, driving hundreds of families northward and many into the arms of family members in the Wilson County and the greater Nashville area.
After that day, Reese began scrambling to coordinate volunteer recovery efforts, which ranged from gathering clothes to send to Louisiana and Mississippi to helping families new to Tennessee find churches and even homes.
And she asked the same question again when tornadoes devastated Sumner County, and she saw she and others were at a loss for how to help hundreds of people who clearly needed it.
Now, she thinks she has found an answer to her question of where to turn. Reese thinks it should be right here in Wilson County.
As the director of Giving Back Hope, a collaboration of area churches dedicated to helping disaster victims reclaim their shattered lives, Reese is well versed in disaster response and communitywide coordination. So, for the last few weeks, she has been courting members of the American Red Cross, one of the premiere nationwide agencies all Americans turn to coordinate crisis management and volunteer efforts. And Reese has been urging the Red Cross to open a center in Wilson County.
As part of that effort, Reese spent Tuesday afternoon showing two Nashville Red Cross executives around Wilson County, introducing them to the community and talking to them about her vision for a Red Cross Center. Part of her vision entails a center that can benefit the whole county as well as serve as a place for county residents to provide help to others.
True to her nature, Reese said in an interview Tuesday her efforts were completely selfless.
"It's not about what they can do for us, it's about what we can do for them," she said.
The Red Cross executives said they were highly encouraged by Reese's work and community as a whole.
"The resources are here," said Tom Peters, director of community outreach and volunteers for the Nashville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Peters and Nashville Area Chapter Chief Executive Officer Colleen Zakrewsky praised Reese for her volunteer work.
"If there were a Liz (Reese) in every community, people in those communities would be rebuilding their lives a lot faster," Zakrewsky said.
Peters and Zakrewsky said having a point person already inside of a community is "everything" in terms of what is needed to lay the groundwork for opening a center.
For them, Reese is all the point person they will ever need.
They explained the challenge is a monetary one.
To open a Wilson County Red Cross Center, the organization will have to raise enough money to buy or lease space for a number of years and pay a staff. Much of that financing will have to be raised privately.
But toward the end of their tour, Reese announced she just received assurances of a $10,000 donation from a county official.
Reese, Zakrewsky and Peters said they were very optimistic about the possibility of opening a center relatively soon.
"I'd like to see us open within a year," Zakrewsky said. "There is just enormous potential for this community."
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.